Haiti For Kids Foundation Interview

Haiti For Kids Foundation Interview
Jackie O’Neal:

You visited Haiti last June- Describe the events which led you to
embracing the mission of getting involved to help Haitian children with urgent needs.
Jesse Johnson:

My interest in helping the children of Haiti began last year when I first
visited Haiti. Just being there and witnessing young children being
misused and so sadly forgotten touched me deeply. I witnessed very young ladies being sold
as prostitutes. I saw children dying preventable deaths at hospitals. The
issues facing these children, to me, were just unacceptable. So it was really
on my first trip to Haiti that I decided that we were going to work for these

What was the pivotal moment when you envisioned forming the Foundation?
Jesse Johnson:

Actually, there wasn’t a pivotal moment that I can remember but I do remember
realizing very logically that the hundreds of children that I met on the
streets of Haiti were probably still going to be there when I return unless we
do something about it. My vision to pioneer the Haiti Kids Foundation really
grew quickly after my first visit. The more I came to understand the
under which these children live the more our group wanted to find new ways to

Which cities in Haiti did you visit? What led you to visit Haiti?
Jesse Johnson:

I’ve traveled all over central regions of Haiti at this point; as far north as
Saint-Marc and as far west as Miragoane. I’ve spent a good deal of time in the
Delmaas areas of Port-au-Prince and a good deal of time in Petionville as well
as there are many orphanages of course in Port-au-Prince.

Your bike journey took you 4,000 miles from Seattle to Miami and you
started July 15th.

What kept you motivated? How did you train for the bike riding mission?
Jesse Johnson:

Really when we were on the trip my family was the source of my
strength. My wife, Rachel and my daughter Trinity were there every night and they were a
constant source of encouragement to everyone on the trip.

As far as training: I decided in January that we were going to make
this trip so as quickly as I could I tried to start riding 100 miles a day/ 6 days a week.
However, between work and spending time with my family that schedule wasn’t
often possible. I also had sickness hinder my training. For example, on
my most recent trip to Haiti I was already gone from training for 8 days but
furthermore when I came home I was so sick for 10 days that I couldn’t train at all. I
never doubted that I could make the mileage and I think that attitude was the
key to my physical success.
How can the public help your Foundation achieve its goals? Can you give an
overview of the goals and how you hope to meet them?
Jesse Johnson:

As for how the public can get involved with the Bike for Haiti Kids Project we
encourage everyone to visit www.bikeforhaitikids.org and check out what we are
doing. We have a terrific video diary section and a blog section that
tells the tales of the trip. We encourage everyone to make a small donation toward the
cause if they are able. In Haiti we can do a lot for a small amount so your
donations will make a difference.

As for the short-term goals for the foundation we have several things going on
right now. For example we have a program where we have paired with a few other
companies to provide thousands of orphans with vitamins and essential minerals
everyday. We have a building project for one of the orphanages we support
whereby we will open the doors for about 75 children who are currently living
on the street. Plans are in the works to rebuild a medical facility just north
of Saint-Marc that will give medical attention to hundreds of children.

Other longer-term goals include pairing with some other organizations
to open a medical facility in Port-au-Prince that would provide medical treatment to
orphans across Port-au-Prince. But our main objective will continue to be
assisting orphanages achieve their potential so we can help them get kids off
of the streets of Haiti.

Since 80 % of the population of Haiti lives in abject poverty, and infant
mortality rates are high due to the prevalence of HIV/AIDS- shouldn't the
government of Haiti take responsibility and be held accountable? What is the
elected government doing to alleviate the urgent needs of children in Haiti?
Jesse Johnson:

We aren’t really experts about Haitian government issues or politics so I
don’t think that I would be the best person to give you an answer to these

However I agree with you that the statistics for infant mortality are
unacceptable. In Haiti around 96 of 1000 babies die at birth whereas, for
example, in the USA that number is around 6 or 8 of 1000. Also, I’ve heard
people say that the AIDS situation is worse in Haiti than it is in sub-Saharan

I read that the Government of Haiti is "reliant upon formal economic
international assistance"-

It would appear this system of relying on economic assistance has not been
effective. What is your sense about this issue?
Jesse Johnson:

I have read that the Government is reliant upon formal economic international
assistance as well. Once again, I’m not an expert on Haitian politics but I
do think that the changes in governmental leadership have been so
dramatic over
the past 6 years that the country has had nothing else to do again except to
become reliant upon assistance.

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